WASHINGTON -- More than two dozen U.S. senators are calling on the nation's top intelligence official to make information public about the scope and duration of the National Security Agency's surveillance program.
In a letter sent Friday to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the bipartisan group of lawmakers also want him to provide examples of how the bulk collection of phone records provided unique intelligence.
The letter from the 26 senators, organized by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, says they are concerned the gathering of massive of amounts of data on the communications of ordinary Americans depended on secret interpretations of the Patriot Act.
The letter says those interpretations, along with misleading statements from U.S. intelligence officials, prevented American citizens from being able to evaluate the decisions their government was making.
The missive concludes with this volley of questions:
How long has the NSA used PATRIOT Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?
Has the NSA used USA PATRIOT Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?
Has the NSA collected or made plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?
Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.
Please identify any specific examples of instances in which intelligence gained by reviewing phone records obtained through Section 215 bulk collection proved useful in thwarting a particular terrorist plot.
Please provide specific examples of instances in which useful intelligence was gained by reviewing phone records that could not have been obtained without the bulk collection authority, if such examples exist.
Please describe the employment status of all persons with conceivable access to this data, including IT professionals, and detail whether they are federal employees, civilian or military, or contractors.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) says that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court created in the 1970s is "just anachronistic" because it was not designed for the "astounding reach that the court has gone to with respect to the Patriot Act."